Friday, December 7, 2007

Gakuen Alice Review

For a basic explanation of the plot line please see ANN.

I guess I'll start with my gripes. This anime, like so many others (>_>, <_< - Fruits Basket), has no resolution of the major plot points because the manga is still on-going in Japan. I'm not sure what's worse, incompleteness like this or the evil filler ala Naruto and Bleach. This is especially frustrating in a series like this or Fruits Basket because so much of what's going on plot-wise is completely dependent on some secret that has to be revealed about the past. The audience is left hanging. In GA you get all these references to another student who had the same Alice as Mikan, and how there was a rebellion at the academy because of her... you do end up finding out who that person was but you never find out what happened or why. Many of the 'mysteries' that get explanations, like Natsume's weird MI5 job, are hurried, and well - unconvincing. It wasn't as frustrating in Gakuen Alice because the episodes are mostly stand alone and not necessarily dependent on each other, although there is some semblance of a loose plot line. The series did have a closed resolution, meaning a single story arc was concluded at the end. It reminded me of a season closing in an anime that has multiple seasons.

Gakuen Alice is about as shoujo as a series can get formula-wise, Cute/Stupidly Sweet/Ditzy Girl finds a Closed off/Walled Up/Mean hero type - he says stay away, she doesn't, insert angst here, insert angsty scene where character A falls on character B here. Think, Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, Kodocha. Cute stuff, I mean this is what I love - but it's probably not for the non-angst loving set. I found this anime to be very similar to Fruits Basket, seemingly happy, but dark characters with strange secrets unlocked by a happy go lucky ditzy girl, then they fall on each other and get red-cheeked. The main difference between the two is that Fruits Basket spent a lot of time on Tohru's interactions with the male members of the Zodiac (at least in the anime) and Gakuen Alice concentrates a lot on Mikan's friendship with Hotaru, which I found boring. Ultimately, I was watching for the cuteness and the subtle angstiness. This isn't a romance in the traditional sense. Mikan doesn't understand her own feelings which I think is a cute twist on the typical romance schema, although there is a little barely nascent love triangle that's squeal worthy. It has its moments. I did enjoy the references to Alice in Wonderland (their currency is called 'rabbit' and their powers are Alices). I think all the things that are absent in the anime are probably explored more fully in the manga, especially as far as character relationship development is concerned. I do plan to read it, hopefully there will be a second season.


Hiro said...

Gakuen Alice was a cute series while it lasted, obviously a shoujo spin on Harry Potter with all of the standard character tropes thrown in to round out the cast of characters. I liked the cute OP and ED songs, but it's basically a kids' show, with none of the depth or artistic aspirations of Mahoushoujotai Arusu or Princess Tutu. My daughter liked Gakuen Alice, and it WAS rather endearing and watchable. But if you like this kind of anime to provide a more concrete ending, I recommend Arusu and Tutu very highly.

I don't really understand the comparison to Fruits Basket beyond the fact that the anime ends mid-story (as do any number of other shows based on longer-running manga, like Loveless). I think the producers of Fruits Basket made a great effort to provide closure by changing the anime story a little (like both Yuki and Tohru are there to help Kyo after the transformation, and Tohru makes that fateful walk to her mother's grave in the rain, where she's found by Hana-chan and Uo-chan) and I believe the anime season can stand admirably on its own. I still think Fruits Basket had 3 of the top 20 anime episodes ever (the two that cover Kyo's transformation and the one where the Prince Yuki Club visit Hana-chan's house) and the entire series stands up to repeat viewings.

Stephanie said...

I definitely agree, I mean I love Fruits Basket. I was making the comparison based on character types. Tohru is like Mikan too me, and Natsume is like Kyo. I haven't heard of Arusu so I'll look into that one but I definitely loved Tutu.